Fit After 50: Walk Your Way to a Longer Life

Several medical studies have shown that people who walk regularly live longer, and that walking regularly can prevent hip fractures, keep you flexible, help you sleep better and keep your mind clearer as you age. In a DiscoveryNews article, Seth Landefeld, director of the Mt. Zion Center on Aging at the University of California at San Francisco, said, “There is a lot of evidence that people who keep up physical activity as well as social activity do much better in all sorts of ways. They live longer. They have better health. Their mental health stays sharper…. If you keep walking and moving around, that will likely have benefits in terms of survival and overall health.”

Unless you are confined to a wheel chair or have a heart condition that prevents mild exercise, walking is something you can do. And you know intuitively that walking produces many health benefits. The problem with doing it regularly, if you’re at all like me, is that the pressures and responsibilities of job, career, family, and everyday living  often get in the way of taking care of your body. It’s hard to be consistent with any kind of exercise program — even one as simple as walking.

But here’s the thing: If you’re over 50 and you’re not exercising at least three days every week for at least 30 minutes or more each time, it’s time to make a change. Stop sacrificing your health and possibly shortening your life for the sake of your employer or a TV show or a computer game, or whatever else you’re doing that’s preventing you from at least taking a walk every day. Start putting your body and your health higher on your priority list. Just do it! Everything else you are doing with your time will suddenly fade into insignificance if your health fails and you are no longer able physically or mentally to maintain your previous busy schedule and lifestyle.

Before beginning any walking or exercise program, check with your doctor if any of the following conditions apply to you:

  • you’ve been inactive physically for more than a year
  • you are over 65 and you don’t currently exercise
  • you’ve been diagnosed with heart trouble
  • you have chest pain, especially when exerting yourself
  • you often feel faint or have severe dizzy spells
  • you have high blood pressure or diabetes

If you are still working for an employer, a good time to begin a regular walking program is during your lunch hour — BEFORE you eat lunch! If you are retired or are self-employed, set a time each day for taking a walk. Schedule it just like you would a meeting or any other regular activity. Commit to your schedule and stick to it. Share your commitment with your coworkers or colleagues and ask them to help you stick to your commitment by not calling or scheduling meetings that might intrude on your walking time. They may even want to commit to walking at the same time themselves!

Be sure to get a comfortable pair of walking shoes that have a flexible sole and an adequate cushion for your instep and heel. Start with short distances and time periods (10 to 15 minutes) if you haven’t been walking or exercising regularly. Gradually increase the time and the pace every two weeks. Be sure to warm up first with three to five minutes of slow walking, and cool down in the same way after the brisk part of your walk.

Finally, if you ARE confined to a wheel chair, or if for some other reason you are unable to walk, ask your doctor or health care provider what exercises or movements you can safely do that will increase your heart rate enough to increase the amount of oxygen your muscles are able to absorb from the blood flowing through them. Remember, the key is MOVEMENT. Move as many of your joints and muscles as you can, as often as you can. Any movement is beneficial if it’s rigorous enough to cause your muscles to demand more oxygen.

So start moving and you will begin thriving! Keep on moving and you will keep on thriving!

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